Ballyclare v Cooke 13 Oct 2018
Saturday’s game, played in atrocious conditions, is one Cooke will want to quickly forget about. The team was outmuscled by a confident Ballyclare side who proceeded to claim their fifth consecutive bonus point victory.
Ballyclare took the lead within 5 minutes when their influential outhalf, Robbie Reid slotted a simple penalty when Cooke’s backs crept offside. With twelve minutes on the clock Cooke fullback Phil Cartmill had his clearance kick charged down by the speedy Stewart Cussick who touched down for Ballyclare’s first try of the afternoon. Ten minutes later a greasy balled was not gathered by the visitors’ defence and ‘Clare fullback Gary Clotworthy hacked over the line to claim try number two. Robbie Reid kicked a magnificent touchline conversion.
Cooke defended heroically for the remainder of the half while set piece play was dominated by the men from the Cloughan, maintaining a half time score-line of 15 : 0
Cooke changed tactics in the second half with scrums declined for quick tap kicks as they continued to be pressurised by the Ballyclare pack. The score-line remained unchanged until the final quarter when the home side moved further ahead following a well rehearsed line-out move. A short throw was returned to hooker Matthew Coulter, who crossed the line in the corner for an unconverted try. Two minutes later Ballyclare’s strong running centre, Joel McBride, evaded several tacklers to dance in under the posts and claim the bonus point try, converted by Reid.
The dominance of the Ballyclare front row took its toll on their youthful opponents. Having lost loose head Aaron Hunter, Cooke’s replacement prop, Robert Collins retired injured with fifteen minutes of play remaining forcing uncontested scrums. Ironically, this favoured the 14 man Cooke side who finally secured some possession allowing replacement centre Jonny Backus to score an unconverted try. However, salt was rubbed in Cooke wounds in the final play of the game when experienced number 8, Ryan Tweed, barged over from a ruck with Reid’s conversion bringing the final score to Ballyclare 34 : Cooke 5
Cooke were well beaten on a day when the absence of several key members of their pack gifted total dominance to the Ballyclare eight. To its credit, the team defended valiantly with the back row of Elliott, Robinson and Lyons putting in enormous effort. In particular, number 8 Jason Lyons and his scrum half, Ryan Flavelle, fought bravely behind a retreating pack. With little or no possession the Cooke backs could only respond when Ballyclare chose to test them with some difficult kicks and a greasy ball. The team has now a two week break to prepare for the visit of Enniskillen by which stage the severe lessons received at Ballyclare will hopefully be learned.